The Design Pacesetter

September 2019


Short on time? Here is a 1-2 sentence "enticer" for helping your prioritize which articles you may be interested in reading.

  • Learn how our 6th graders utilized empathy to create one-of-a-kind iPad backgrounds for a partner in the article "6th Graders Rise with Design Thinking."
  • Check out "Aiden's Unique Smartness" discovered during the Design Thinking Experience and his creation that his partner loved.
  • Do your lessons reflect intent? Mine did not and here is why intent matters. Read about it in the article "Intention - What Is Its Role In Your Classroom?"

6th Graders Rise With Design Thinking

It is tough to believe that we are already half way through the first quarter. Before we know it, the end of the first quarter will be here. As I have worked with various teachers in the building and co-taught several classes, I have been impressed with the positive energy and mindsets of teachers who want to do what is best for our students. It has been amazing to see the thinking and design that so many of our staff are doing to create engaging learning experiences for our students.

Earlier this month, I worked with Miss Michael and Mrs. Safrit to provide an introduction to Design Thinking for all of our 6th graders. We started by teaching Design Thinking vocabulary. The students were charged with using empathy to get to know their partner. They were pushed to deduce insights to determine their partner's needs in order to create a personalized background for their iPad. Check out the full activity in this hyperdoc.

The highlight of the experience occurred when students shared their design with their partners. I attend this sharing of the screensavers with Mrs. Safrit's classes and it was truly a magic moment for so many of our students. There were lots of smiles and high fives. Most students felt that their partner did a great job getting to understand them and creating something very personal and unique. I was blown away with many of the designs.

As we continue to implement Design Thinking across China Grove Middle School, I encourage you to think creatively and boldly about how to connect Design Thinking to your curriculum. In our next newsletter, I will highlight the work that 7th ELA teachers will be doing with Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie. Miss Pate approached me several weeks ago with an extraordinary idea about how we could combine Design Thinking with the novel. We are currently developing this project as students finish reading the novel. Great job to Miss Pate for thinking outside the box.

Aiden's Unique Smartness

Aiden's creation

Showcasing Student's Unique Smartness

Pictured above is an image that a student, Aiden, in Mrs. C. Safrit's class created for his design project. The student drew this image by hand for his partner. Through his use of empathy, he learned that his partner loved cats as well as determining her colors. While I found many of the screensavers that our students created interesting, I was especially stricken by this creation. I spent some time interviewing the student and learned that he has taught himself how to hand draw on the iPad. This is no easy feat since it requires fine motor skills as well as understanding how to construct the lines together to create a recognizable image. The student indicated that he loves to draw and is self taught. As I think about our system's goal associated with "unique smartness" and how incredible that it was that this Aiden was able to connect his unique smartness and passion to the work that he was doing in school. Aiden also exhibited a strong sense of pride in what he had created and his partner loved it. She immediately put it as her background on his iPad.

It is moments like that we must seek out with our students to learn their passions and unique smartness. I encourage you to make time to learn the passion of your students and what brings them joy and happiness. This will also help to cultivate a positive and nurturing relationship with students.

Intention - What is its role in your classroom?

Intention is defined as "an aim, a plan." Interestingly, it can also be described as the healing process of a wound. So as you are preparing your lessons, are you being intentional? Obviously being intentional means that we, first and foremost connect our instruction with the curriculum objectives and fundamental standards. Most educators do this but I wonder if we can go even further to be more intentional.

In being intentional, we are deliberate in our actions and ensure that they communicate our intentionality. In doing some research on this topic, I found an article that from Kaplan deeply influenced my thinking on the purpose of being intentional: "For teachers, this means that you understand why you are doing something and that you have a plan and purpose for everything you do, everything you have in your classroom, and everything you put in your lesson plans. Consciously planning activities and learning experiences with a deliberate and specific objective in mind will help you meet children's needs and will them learn and grow."

As I reflect on my classroom teaching, I realize that there were many times that the tasks and actions that I had my students do were NOT truly intentional. I recall using Kahoot several years for the first time. As most educators clearly know, Kahoot brings out the competitive spirit of most students. And it was a lot of fun. However, as I used the tool several times, I quickly realized that I did not have a true purpose or intention in using Kahoot other than to have students doing something. I was not truly connecting the learning goals of my classroom with this tool. I was not being intentional in the use of Kahoot. Kahoot can have an important use in a classroom but I need to begin with intention instead of simply using because it has a high rate of participation.

As you are beginning to plan future lessons, I would encourage you to think about everything that you are doing in the classroom and determine if you are truly being intentional. It can be challenging to look in the mirror but if that is what helps our students, then it is well worth it. As I continue to work with you and visit classrooms, I will often ask you to think about the nature of your instruction and its intentionality.

Images Cited

Design Thinking Graphic by MrJanzen1984 licensed under CC 4.0 license.

All other images were taken by Brian Whitson.